Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel by Jane Austen, Seth Grahame Smith, Tony Lee and Cliff Richards

England is a land in turmoil, as for some reason its corpses will not stay decently buried but rise up to terrorize the countryside as "Unmentionables". Fighting them is mostly the work of men, but some women also train to destroy them, not the least of which are the three daughters of Mr. Bennett, who had taken his daughters to China to learn and hone their training in the killing arts. Chiefest of them all when it comes to killing is the eldest daughter, Elizabeth, who is a "Bride of Death" for the end she brings Zombies to.

Her mother, who is a non-combatant, wants nothing more than to marry off her daughters well, but their father is rather more concerned with keeping them alive and letting them use their deadly skills on behalf of England, to contain the unmentionables and the strange plague.

When a man named Bingley moved in across the park, Mrs. Bennett seeks to marry one of them off to him, and they go to his house for a ball. But in an attack by the unmentionables, Elizabeth meets Bingley's friend, Mr. Darcy, and they both fire sparks off each other practically from the first sight. Elizabeth is a staunch fighter, and doesn't suffer fools gladly, flaying them with the sharp side of her tongue and her wit. Fitzwilliam Darcy is dour and almost cold, but Elizabeth's prowess as a zombie fighter definitely captures his attention. Meanwhile, Mr. Bingley captures the attention, and is captured by, that of Elizabeth's sister, Jane.

However, when Bingley and Darcy return to London without explanation, Elizabeth is angered that Bingley has thrown over Jane unexpectedly. It is not until a contingent of soldiers is sent into the countryside that Elizabeth meets and becomes friend with one of them, George Wickham. Wickham used to be a friend of Darcy, and tells Elizabeth that they were both raised by Darcy's father after Wickham's father died. Unfortunately, Darcy seemed to be angry that his father preferred Wickham to himself, and made several slights against him, including an assault that broke both of Wickham's legs, and he also cheated Wickham out of his inheritance.

Elizabeth learns that it was Darcy who broke up Jane and Bingley's budding relationship, and this crystalizes her dislike of him into outright hatred. She vows to kill him and cut out his heart for what he has done.. She gets her chance when she goes to visit her friend, Charlotte, who married her cousin, a clergyman. Charlotte, before her wedding, was bitten by a zombie and is turning into one, craving brains and constantly biting her own hand.

Darcy comes to see her and confesses his love for her, but Elizabeth blows up at him and has a vicious verbal and physical fight with him. She is so angered that she knocks him down and wounds him. He manages to escape with his life, but writes her a letter in which he explains what he has done and why. Yes, he broke up Jane and Bingley, but he was afraid that the malady she was suffering was the "unfortunate Plague" and that she would turn into a zombie. As for Wickham, it is true that they were raised together by Darcy's father, but Wickham had incurred his father's disgust by being a cruel man. Darcy once came on him kicking a servant's legs for some fault with his saddle-girth, and Darcy, sick of the way he was mistreating the man, broke his own legs for him. As for the "Inheritance", Wickham had tried to seduce Darcy's sister, and Darcy saved her from the ruin of her reputation. Since Wickham couldn't have her be forced to marry him, he lost that "Inheritance".

Realizing that she has misjudged him, Elizabeth repents, and a meeting with him as she and her family have gone on a progress around the country show both of them how well they work together when they fight zombies. Elizabeth considers resuming their relationship, only to find out that her sister Lydia has eloped with Wickham. Darcy also finds this out, and decides to save Lydia by forcing Wickham to marry her, not just despoil her. He also delivers a beating that leaves Wickham a complete quadriplegic, including an inability to control himself in the bathroom, then engineers a place for them in Ireland with a group of lame priests.

He has realized that his old cold and arrogant manner allows people to believe the worst of him, but his aunt has caught wind of his affection for Elizabeth Bennett, and she swoops in to try and save him for her own daughter, a sickly girl who cannot live up to the example of her mother, who is the most prominent zombie fighting woman in the country. She is so good that the zombies give her place a wide berth, but she thinks that Elizabeth Bennett is not good enough for Darcy, and challenges her to a duel.

But will Elizabeth be able to kill a woman she once so idolized? And will the assistance of Lady Catherine's ninjas be able to overcome the Shaolin training that Elizabeth received in the orient? And even if she is able to overcome Lady Catherine with sword and wiles, Lady Catherine says she would rather not live if Elizabeth defeats her. Will Elizabeth kill the aunt of the man she has come to love? Or will she spare her life? And how will Darcy view her choice?

Okay, I've never read either "Pride and Prejudice" or "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" (shocker, I know), but when I saw this in the library, I just had to pick it up. I liked the idea of zombie fighters in the Victorian era, and how the women who became Zombie-killers attained a much greater measure of freedom for themselves, but even so, most of Elizabeth Bennett's sisters seem to be more interested in marrying than in continuing their martial careers- only Elizabeth doesn't want to get married off and leave the fray.

She truly is the best at Zombie-slaying, even better than Lady Catherine, who is the premiere Zombie-Hunter in England. Since this is a graphic novel, we don't get a sense of how or when Zombies started arising, but I was rather surprised that they hadn't hit on the idea of burning *everyone* after they died to prevent more zombies from arising. Cremation would seem to be the best way to end the infestation, as they do burn zombies when they are caught.

I found this book much more interesting and amusing than the actual novel it's based on. The idea of Zombie-slaying women and noblewomen in Victorian society was an absolute win, and very fun to read. It's also more interesting to have a heroine who can give the hero a run for his money in fighting prowess, and doesn't have to just go at him with words. Fun, and a triumph. Highly recommended.

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